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The southern Africans have carved a niche for themselves by beginning to believe in their ability to compete with the ‘big boys’ hence Black Stars should be careful

SPECIAL
Joshua Ansah

Ghana have been drawn up against Malawi in a two-legged tie to decide who goes on to South Africa in 2013 for the first African Cup of Nations in the new odd year system which aims to avoid Afcons being played in the same year as World Cups.

On the surface it looks like a good draw for the west African nation but a few factors may suggest that there is need for caution, and Goal.com Ghana outlines five of them.
ORGANIZATION


Ghana have struggled to break down well organized teams in recent past and the Flames will look to replicate Libya’s success in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers in Kumasi where they narrowly missed out on a 2-1 win due to Anthony Annan’s late header. Zambia are also an example of what organization can get you against the Black Stars as they have managed to beat them twice this year with very organized play.

For a team that can hardly be described as over flowing with talent, or at least easily noticeable ones, the Flames are a very organized unit who possess the ability to be sometimes too hot to handle in an attacking sense too. They are masters of the organization game who have developed a knack for goals late in games, just ask Egypt and Nigeria. The last time the two sides met in a preparatory game for the 2010 Nations Cup it ended goalless with the flames making good use of their organizational skills to stifle the Black Stars’ creativity and penetration.

UNDERDOG’S TAG AND THE CONFIDENCE IT BRINGS



The southern Africans have a lot of organizational skills, but one thing responsible for their recent good performances is their growing confidence. The Flames rarely go into a match with something to lose and will not mind sharing the spoils with Ghana in Accra. They are gradually beginning to believe in their ability to compete with or in the least frustrate the ‘big boys’ which has made them really dangerous. Do not expect them to cower at the mention of the name Ghana neither should you expect them to come to west Africa with a defeatist attitude. Kinah Phiri and his charges know where their strengths lie and will not be intimidated by anything. Whether the Ghanaians are able to handle the pressure of being favourites though, is yet to be seen as the Black Stars have baulked at that tag on previous occasions.

UPSET LOVERS


The Flames of Malawi just love to upset. Whether it is in an impossible World Cup qualifying campaign or in an African Cup group stage game, the Flames love letting the big boys know they are around and will be looking to do the same against Ghana. A one goal win against Egypt in the 2010 African/World Cup qualifiers as well as a three goal trashing of north African giants Algeria in their opening game of the 2010 Afcon are a testament to that. Not to forget a dogged 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast in a World Cup 2010 qualifiers. The next on their hit list of big boys could well be Ghana and don’t be surprised if The flames pull another upset out of the bag.

THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE AND GOAL THREAT



With a relatively solid goal scoring record for the national team, Chuikepo Msowoya and Russell Mwafulirwa were Malawi’s first choice striking pair for a while, but have faded away as a pair in recent times. Msowoya cancelled the trip to go for trials and Mwafulirwa was not called up, but both could be dangerous in the return. Msowoya is famous for his strikes against Egypt, one in the third minute of time added on to beat the Pharaohs in a 2010 World Cup qualifier in Blantyre, and Russell for the opener in that three-goal trashing of Algeria at the Afcon. Msowoya also has an impressive record of scoring six times in 10 games during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. The absence of the two leaves the team with relatively unknown/unproven attacking talent with only two of the forwards in the squad having scored at international level. This means the squad will be difficult to deal with as they are not well known to the Ghanaians and the element of surprise could work in favour of the Flames.

SECOND LEG HOME ADVANTAGE


The Flames have an advantage of playing at home in the second leg. Granted, Ghana have the ability to ensure the second leg becomes just a formality, the flames still have the ability to keep themselves in it till the second game to give the Ghanaians a run for their money in Malawi. Ivory Coast famously only managed a draw there in the qualifiers for the global showpiece, despite trashing the Flames by five goals to nothing earlier on in the group phase.

Home advantage for the deciding tie will be crucial and with their solid home form, they will be pushing to be in it still when the second leg kicks off in Malawi and if that is the case then it is going to be any man’s game in Malawi regardless of the pedigree of the Ghanaians, and they should be doing their best to give themselves a good head start in Accra. Most Ghanaians were relieved to have been drawn against Malawi avoiding the dreaded Senegal but they should not take the Flames for granted else they may just get burnt.

These are some of the reasons we believe the Black Stars would have to be vigilant against the Malawians.  Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section below.

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